Google’s spam update: What to expect as SpamBrain gets smarter.

In this article What has Google announced? How does this work? What we expect, and what this means for you How should you respond?

There’s a new update to Google’s link spam detection system SpamBrain, but what does this mean for the organic search results? Here’s our summary on what has been announced, and the likely impact.

What has Google announced?

Google announced its December link spam update on 14 December 2022. This is a global update, affecting all languages and markets, and is likely to take around two weeks to fully roll-out. It’s likely that the Helpful Content update, which started rolling out earlier in December, will overlap with this one.

The update will use Google’s machine learning-based spam-prevention system SpamBrain to “detect spam directly”, we well as detect sites that are either involved in the buying of links or being used for the purpose of passing outgoing links (so-called, “link farms”).

How does this work?

SpamBrain has been with us since 2018 so this is largely an update to that system. In its first year, Google claimed to have reduced the spam by 80%. In 2019 Google focused on improving its spam fighting capabilities through machine learning systems.

As these machine learning systems improve, so does the capability and efficiency of SpamBrain to identify and address link spam. This means that the scope of SpamBrain moves beyond simply detecting harmful, irrelevant and paid links, to identifying hacked sites, automatically generated and scraped content and even detecting fraud.

It means that SpamBrain is looking at more than just clear signs of link spam activity.

What we expect, and what this means for you

It’s important to remember that these updates are designed to target websites that are routinely breaching the best practice guidance that Google has been consistently issuing – that poor quality paid links and practices that promote them are not what it considers to be in the best interests of its users.

SpamBrain is an AI-driven process, so we do not expect to see any manual action penalties imposed on brands as this update rolls out. Google itself talks of bad links being “neutralised” rather than “penalised”.

However, that doesn’t mean to say that there won’t be notable changes from this update. We fully expect that the spam update will shake up the search results and it is expected that any sites that are routinely breaching Google’s best practices will see performance decline as the algorithm continues to roll out over the coming week.

It also means that brands that continue to engage in the practices that Google is clearly targeting, including the building of high quantities of low-quality links, will be ineffective.

How should you respond?

Brands that haven’t routinely engaged in poor-practice SEO techniques are very unlikely to see an adverse impact from this update, although there are steps that can be taken to protect your brand from any potential issues.

The most effective step would be to undertake regular and thorough backlink audits. By regularly reviewing your backlink profile, you create an opportunity to correct any questionable link strategies that might have been deployed in the past.

Want to know more about this update and how we can help? Get in touch


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